Nov 24, 2008

The Real News Network: Check it out

If you are thinking of making an end-of-the-year contribution to NPR or PBS, consider shifting some of that money to The Real News. The hyperlink will bring you to the home page. Sample the stories. The editing is sharp, the video quality is excellent.

Started by Canadian (!) broadcaster Paul Jay--an excellent interviewer, by the way--it's an attempt to provide context for news stories. It's based totally on listener support--no corporate sponsors, no commercials, no government support. Many of us have have watched Public Television and Radio over the years becoming less hard hitting as more and more "soft" and "humane" commercials have begun to seep into the breaks between programs. My favorite example is "Washington Week" on PBS with Gwen Ifil. You will be hard pressed to hear any reporting in this Friday evening round table about the influence of lobbyists, or environmental damage and lax EPA oversight since major support for the program comes from the National Mining Association.

Like Pacifica, it will be seen as "left wing" but I'd like to think of it as "independent"--see for yourself how Jay came up with the name for this listener-supported network in this interview.

Contribute if you can. This looks like a worthy enterprise. In addition to my continuing support for Pacifica, I have decided to shift my contributions to them and have attached a letter with my contribution forms to the local PBS and NPR stations telling them why I have decided to switch:

Dear (General Manager):

For a number of years now--well over a decade--I have become very dissatisfied with coverage of national and foreign news on your station. It is obvious to me that as you rely more and more on corporate sponsorship, your capacity to report fully and accurately has diminished, and that you no longer seek viewpoints and information from sources that provide information that might contradict or modify the corporatist and official viewpoints.

A recent example has been the coverage of the invasion of South Ossetia by Georgia in early August, 2008, or the current failure to cover the international outcry against Israel's continuing violence against and collective punishment of the Palestinian people. The viewpoint of labor or minorities is rarely, if ever, presented to balance the corporate viewpoint, and your reliance upon conservative think tanks has increased.

Now I can take some action against your failure to uphold journalistic standards. Effective immediately I will no longer be contributing to your station. I will instead contribute to a new listener- and viewer-supported internet enterprise, The Real News. This excellent group was founded by--ironically--a Canadian broadcaster, Paul Jay. I urge you to begin viewing The Real News to bolster your own coverage of national and international stories.

Immediately remove my name from your mailing and subscriber lists. You can be sure I will continue to listen or to watch (station call letters) for signs of improvement, and if improvement ever comes, perhaps I may even subscribe once again. You have my best wishes for a full recovery.

Sincerely yours,

Nov 20, 2008

The Great Paralysis in its 61rst Year

Some good advice for the president-elect was published Thursday in the Financial Times. In an article entitled "Obama Urged to Prioritise Mideast," Rouala Khalaf reports how the Saudi Foreign Minister urged Barack Obama to get to work right away on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Saud al-Feisal said: "The issue of the Middle East is of paramount importance to all the problems in the region."

It sure would be nice right about now if Obama called his old pal Rashid Khalidi to ask him what he thought. I don't think that's going to happen. I do hope Obama understands that the Foreign Minister from Saudi Arabia is speaking the truth. He probably does know it. But I doubt seriously if he will try to tackle that problem directly. He's now trapped in the metaphysics of American Destiny and American Loyalty and American Allies. Before we know it, the Annapolis conference will be two years dead and nothing much will have happened during the first Obama year just as it didn't happen during the last Bush year. . . .and so it goes. Oh, Kurt Vonnegut, once more cynicism overcomes optimism.

It's a terrible madness, this refusal to act with skill and insight and humanity on a deadly and dangerous problem that has been around for 60 years. See you next November, 2009. Mission Unaccomplished. Year 61 of the Great Paralysis.

Nov 12, 2008

Send a message to

I have never been so pleased by an election before. However, I am 64 years old, and my life has paralleled the long and terrible situation in Palestine. Before I die I hope to see some version of peace, equality, and real justice come to that land.

The choices being made by the new President indicate, sadly, that he will probably not seek justice in Palestine, that he will continue the bankrupt policies of the outgoing administration, which is essentially to allow Israel to continue its violations of international law.

Unless the work of peace is pursued, there will be no justice, there will be no peace in our time, there will be no humane governing of the area. The old man Ehud Olmert--better late than never, as my departed mother used to say--has decided to speak now that he knows he has no more to lose. The man was a moral coward before he spoke and should not be given credit for speaking the truth. Where is his apology to the Palestinian people? Where is his charge to the negotiators to act in the spirit of peace and reconciliation?

In a perfect world, our new President must speak the truth to Israel and bring equity to the oppressed people f Palestine. Immediately he should threaten to withhold all funding for the State of Israel unless it begins steps to withdraw the illegal settlers and stop the siege of Gaza.

The spirit of Martin Luther King is pointing the way, but I am quite sure that President-elect Obama is not following in that direction.

Nov 11, 2008

Robert Parry: "Beware the Lessons of '93"

This is really important, I think, and anyone who was a strong Obama supporter should keep this in mind. The President-elect tends to look for compromise and to "reach across the aisle." He--and we-- should not forget the lessons from the early Clinton years of what the other side always will do to the reach across the aisle: they will spurn it.

This is excellent historical reporting from Robert Parry:

Can the Republicans Change? Amid the global euphoria surrounding Barack Obama’s victory – and the hopeful talk about a new bipartisanship in Washington – the Democrats are forgetting a powerful truth: modern Republicans are tied inextricably to slash-and-burn politics. Even if some Republicans did want to shift toward a more bipartisan approach – after more than three decades of successfully using "wedge" tactics and armed with a right-wing media infrastructure built to destroy opponents – such a change might be impossible. The idea of transforming modern Republicanism into some less partisan form might be like trying to train a boa constrictor which fork to use at the dinner table. (continued at

Nov 5, 2008


My good friend in Sacramento writes very late on election night: YIPPEEEEEE!!! What a wonderful night for this country, heh?

You know it! (I almost said You betcha!) I was at a party up in Republican territory in La Canada/Flintridge and the 10 of us went out on the lawn at 8:03 and yelled our heads off! I had been there since about 4:30 watching the returns with the host and another fellow, and as the momentum kept building and the other party goers arrived it was incredible. Then the polls closed at 8 PM and in 30 seconds the announcement came across.

McCain had a very commendable speech, I thought--like the old McCain from the 90's--and Obama's was superb. I will never forget for the rest of my life seeing Jessie Jackson in the audience crying with the knowledge of what had taken place. Now all we have to do is wait for the other 25% of the hard core bastards to shrivel up and melt away. I rarely indulge in schadenfreude, but the thought of George W Bush having to live in denial about his crimes and misdemeanors for the rest of his life is almost delicious in irony. He's a dry drunk. He'll show the same behavior towards his presidency and be as unrepentant as Nixon. I visited a couple of conservative websites today and already they are gearing up for the attack. See below #2 which I received from a political acquaintance today:

#1. Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone, "My Campaign Memories"

What makes the Obama story so powerful isn't just the fact that as a half-white, half-black man, his public journey to the top visibly tied together some of the more painful frayed ends of our past. It's that he ran his race with dignity and honor against people who didn't return the favor, facing a succession of opponents who feared losing more than shame and gave in to pretty much every possible temptation to go low and appeal to the worst in us.

I didn't always see it at the time. But thinking back on it now, I realize what an extraordinary accomplishment his getting this far has been. A man who wasn't great would have blown this a hundred times along the way. So would a person who wasn't extremely lucky. The historical seas literally parted for this Obama guy, with inconceivable idiocy and villainy littering the political shores on either side of him as he ascended to the pantheon of all-time American heroes simply by walking straight ahead and not being a dick. [snip]

Year after year, even the president of our country has been consistently too small and too cheap to stand up and face his problems like a grown-up, forever passing the buck to this or that group of Americans. If it wasn't Reagan crying about "freeloaders" or George H.W. Bush blasting the "apologize for America" crowd, it was the Clintons whining about the "vast right-wing conspiracy." [snip]

Let's hope that it says as much about us as it does about the presidency.

The full article has a great illustration of Obama as a Zen master with his eyes closed and forefinger and thumb touching.

2. Email from Bob Meltzer

Last night we won a major battle. The fight, however, continues. The right wing still has far too much power in this country.

Most of us are old enough to remember 1994. That is the year when, after being the minority party in Congress for forty years, the Republicans swept into power. Not only did they sweep into power, they came in with the most ideologically right wing group this country has ever seen. They stayed in power for a dozen years, successfully imposing much of their right wing agenda on the rest of us.

Why did this happen? The year 1994 was a year of peace and prosperity.
There was no catastrophe anywhere in the world to warrant such a legislative change.

What happened was the election of centrist Democratic Bill Clinton in 1992. The right wing responded by using their control of the media to bash Clinton day and night. Dittoheads with fire in their eyes took over the water coolers in all offices around the country and ceaselessly expounded their hate of Bill Clinton.

Yet the progressives were complacent. There was no major grassroots movement behind President Clinton, while the Democrats in Congress were
weak and fearful (sound familiar?) Could something like this happen to Barack Obama? It WILL happen if we let it.

So today we party and celebrate. Tomorrow we take a reality check and prepare for the next battle. We must keep up the momentum. In the coming
years, President Obama will need us more than ever.